SUDBURY – Roadblocks and indifference of Canadian bureaucrats have prevented the parents of Fanfan Yang, wife of Wade Smith of Providence Bay, from travelling to Canada from Chengdu, China to meet their twin grandchildren Leo (eldest by two minutes) and Luke—now, the rise of the coronavirus has derailed the Smith-Yang’s plans to travel to China as well.

Peggy and Wayne Smith of Providence Bay were looking forward to joining their son Wade and his family on a trip to China last Wednesday, but concerns about the coronavirus forced them to cancel their trip. It would have been quite an odyssey for the young family, but one they were basically forced to take since they could not secure visitors’ visas for the family to come to Canada.

“We would have had to fly to Beijing from Toronto and then take a three-hour flight to Chengdu and about a two-hour drive to the small village where Fanfan’s family lives,” said Ms. Smith. The region is not on the general tourist itinerary, so the Smiths found themselves to be in something of a visible minority position the last time they visited. But the people there are friendly, even if conversations with folks in the village are somewhat challenged by the communications gap.

Although Wade Smith and his wife have made three applications for a visitor’s visa, a fairly lengthy, convoluted and expensive proposition, they have faced roadblocks every time.

“We are basically just about ready to give up,” said Mr. Smith. “Fanfan really misses her family and she is considering going back home permanently.”

As in most cultures, families are a very important part of Chinese values. Mr. Smith explains that, especially in the first month after a child is born, the family gathers around the mother in support and to give her rest.

“They are very upset that they have not been able to see their grandchildren,” said Mr. Smith.

Adding to the frustration has been a decided lack of transparency as to why the visas are continually being denied.

“They give us the same three reasons every time,” said Mr. Smith. The first is a concern that the family will not return to China once they have arrived in Canada. “They want to know what ties they have to China. We show that they have a successful business, two properties, they have a large family and the parents on both sides are still alive—it really is a huge family. Fanfan’s sister is still in school there.”

The answers the couple have received from Immigration Canada as to why these points are not strong enough to prove the family would return following their visit to Canada remain vague. A freedom of information request also failed to clear up the details of the actual roadblock. The process, he said, lacks transparency.

Even an appeal to the office of Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre has proven fruitless. “We were in contact with his staff,” said Mr. Smith. “His secretary called back and basically gave us the same answers as we had already received.”

“We are basically left with asking for a judicial review as our only option,” said Mr. Smith. Initiating a judicial review is an expensive avenue, and as an economics student at Laurentian University he knows that path presents  some serious financial challenges.

In the meantime, and on a more positive note, the Smith-Yang family have not faced the kind of racist backlash being widely reported in the southern media. Although, Ms. Yang does not go out and about that much with two very young children to ride herd over.

“Most of the people we know are from work and that sort of thing,” said Mr. Smith. “They know we were planning a trip to China to see her family and they have questions, but it is more of a friendly thing.”

It was a bit of a different story when the couple went to secure a marriage licence, however. “There was a bit of a funny feeling through that process,” said Mr. Smith. “At first they said we couldn’t get one because Fanfan didn’t have an Ontario residency, then they said they had to take her Chinese residence card. I didn’t think that was right.” In the end, love did prevail, however and the couple were able to marry.

The Smith-Yang family might try to secure visitors’ visas sometime in the future, after the current health crisis has passed and settled down, but with Fanfan now considering a permanent move home that is up in the air. They will eventually have to decide whether that would be throwing good money after bad.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Mr. Smith. “We have done everything that they have asked of us, but we still get nowhere.” With a process that offers poor transparency and a lack of constructive feedback on what to do, the couple are understandably frustrated. “We really don’t know what else they want us to do.”

As to the cancellation of their trip to China, Mr. Smith was philosophical. “You don’t want to be bringing anything back with you that could cause people to get sick,” he said. At least that is something a person can get their head around.